Third European Roma Summit calls for integration at local level

WHO

Dr Piroska Östlin, Programme Manager, WHO/Europe and Mr George Soros, founder and chairman of Open Society Foundations

Around 500 representatives of European Union (EU) institutions, national governments and parliaments, international organizations, civil society (including Roma organizations), local and regional authorities and mayors gathered in Brussels on 4 April 2014 to discuss how to make:

  • policies inclusive for all Roma at the local level;
  • EU funding reach local and regional authorities to support Roma integration; and
  • Roma integration a local reality in EU enlargement candidate countries.

The aim of the EU Summit was to take stock of progress made on Roma inclusion in the EU, since the last Roma Summit of 2010 and following the adoption of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies (the first ever legal instrument for Roma inclusion at EU level) in 2011. This Framework presented a set of recommendations for reducing social inequalities between Roma and non-Roma within the areas of education, employment, health care and housing.

Improvements and challenges in Roma integration

“It is unacceptable that Roma people still face discrimination in hospitals, companies and schools; that they remain without adequate housing, without a future,” said Mr José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission.
Although some improvements in the lives of Roma are becoming visible, many challenges remain. For example, in the area of health, while health mediator programmes to bridge gaps between Roma and non-Roma communities in access to health care are being put in place, there are still many Roma who do not have medical insurance and who face financial difficulties to afford medicines.

Other speakers included Viviane Reding, EU Vice-President responsible for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship, László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Tonio Borg, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, Traian Băsescu, President of Romania, George Soros, Chairman of the Open Society Foundations, and several ministers from EU Member States and enlargement countries.

In its report on the implementation of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies, the European Commission pledges continued EU leadership and support for Member State efforts, including through EU funds. Tangible change in the situation of Roma will only be achieved, however, if Member States, among other measures, “demonstrate political will and determination to remain on the path leading to the expected results for Roma at the local level by 2020 and persistently honour the commitments they have undertaken at the highest political levels,” according to the report.